Friday, August 24, 2007

Coal operator Murray has a history of conflict with regulators

Robert E. Murray has become a household name since the accident at his Murray Energy Co.’s Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah on Aug. 6, and with that recognition has come increased scrutiny from major newspapers. We hope smaller newspapers and broadcast stations in or near the coalfields do likewise.

In The New York Times, Susan Saulny and Carolyn Marshall explore Murray’s record as a mine owner, and they found a history of “run-ins” with government and others over climate change, labor disputes and safety.

The article points to a 2003 conviction of one of Murray’s companies, Ken American Resources, in Western Kentucky. In addition to the company, the federal court jury “four current or former employees on charges of conspiracy, lying and violating safety laws pertaining to dust levels at a mine in western Kentucky from 1996 to 2000.” Saulny and Marshall write that the employees “faced fines of up to $1.4 million, but the company appealed and paid roughly $300,000.”

The article also disputes Murray’s claim that none of his miners ever died in an accident, by highlighting the case of Thomas M. Ciszewski, who bled to death in the Powhatan No. 6 mine in Alledonia, Ohio. Murray’s Ohio Valley Coal Co. was fined $15,000 since there “was not adequate first aid” to treat Ciszewski after his arm was cut off by a conveyor belt. (Read more)

In the Los Angeles Times, Jon Harmon examines the public relations maneuvers of Murray after the accident. (Read more)

Meanwhile, miners also die at surface mines. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration has fined Tri-Star Mining $180,000 for violations that contributed to an accident in Barton, Md., on April 17 that resulted in the death of two employees, according to an MSHA release. The two miners were trapped under about 93,000 tons of rock and material when a highwall collapsed in the pit where they were working, an accident that could have been prevented, the agency said.

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